BOOKS OF DOOM # 1 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: BOOKS OF DOOM—BOOK ONE

Written by: Ed Brubaker
Penciled by: Pablo Raimondi
Inked by: Mark Farmer
Colored by: Brian Reber
Lettered by: VC’s Rus Wooton
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

There is a certain mystique to Victor Von Doom. It’s an attitude, a way of thinking, a creative resonance. There are so few excellent villains in fiction, those truly formidable and complex rapscallions, we not only revile them but res-Bah! What cares the monarch of Latveria for such empty headed platitudes! Any utter dolt who simply breathes the intoxicating air of my kingdom would be forced to concede my singular magnificence! I certainly do not need a piddling scribe like you as a vassal for my regal genius! Return to reviewing this “issue” as you seem fit to call a story grand enough to feature DOOM! and leave my preeminence out of this! Yessir, your most metal clad monarch-ness! I apologize forthwith.

This issue fills in the untold early childhood of Victor Von Doom. Readers meet his parents before their untimely deaths. Doom’s parents are interesting characters in their own right, complex and sympathetic if tragically flawed. His mother’s occult background serves as the impetus for the events in the first BOOK OF DOOM. Her trifling with demons backfires and instead of aiding her gypsy clan, a mistake results in their increased persecution and her death at the hands of the local milit- Mistake? Do you claim the mother of the great Victor Von Doom was some sort of foolish hag? Do you not know the depths of pain and the sheer breadth of the torture I have in store for those who would sully the good name of she who bore me? Of course not, your excellency, but you yourself admit she brought disaster to the whole band, right there on page four… His father, a healer by trade and the gypsies’ leader, is eventually manipulated by those same authorities. His attempt to heal a hopeless case is turned back on him so that he and the young Victor must flee the safety of the camp for the harsh climate of the Latverian Mountains. Unarmed and ill-equipped, the future Doctor’s father nearly freezes to death sheltering his young son from the elements. Victor’s near death experience and the subsequent loss of his second parent force him forward on a road to ruin and revenge that involves the blackest of arts as well as the most foul of deeds. His earliest nadir is balanced by a lucky chance to leave his all too evocative homeland for the Land of Opportunity. This chapter ends with the young and brilliant Doom agreeing to attend schools in the United States.

This issue is ridiculously rich in subtext. There is a gigantic Freudian element (love for the mother and contempt for the father). Victor’s father is a healer by profession and his son will eventually choose the name Doctor Doom. Victor, using his intellect and mystical gifts (something passed on to him from his mother), will eventually succeed in protecting their gypsy clan, something his mother wasn’t able to effectively do. Valeria is mentioned and will most likely return in a future installment. Even the present to flashback format (including video interview entries) is an intriguing device; it seems unlikely that DOOM! would open up to comic book readers this way; if there is a reason the good Doctor is pontificating on his past other than pride, it will be interesting to see what (or who?) the true motivator is.

The art in this issue exceeds expectations on many levels. First, the use of two distinct art styles for the parts of the tale told in the past or present was a stroke of genius. The gritty dark palette and thick line work make today’s Victor Von Doom seem all the more monstrous and vicious. The softer, more balanced sequences set in the past force readers to identify with and empathize with the younger Victor. Excellent depictions of facial expressions, body language, and even the landscapes of Latveria add much to the book’s visual appeal. The coloring goes the extra mile to make certain details stand out (like the young Doom’s dirty hands after playing with a ball) and the overall presentation of the flashbacks brings to mind another series set wholly in an imaginary past, Ruse. It’s not just an intriguing gripping book, it’s also great looking.